As a child, you lose a tooth and you might score a couple of dollars from the tooth fairy, after tucking it under your pillow for the night. But what would that reward look like if the missing fang belonged to a spiritual icon and founder of a religion practiced by over 500 million people around the world?
According to Sri Lankan legend, when Buddha died, his body was cremated in a sandalwood pyre and his left canine tooth was retrieved from the ashes by one of his disciples. A fairly dedicated chap, obviously, rather than wear it around his neck, which would have make for a pretty cool necklace, this guy passed it along to the King, so it could be worshipped by everyone.
Over the years, a rumour started to spread that whoever possessed the tooth had a divine right to rule that land. Not surprisingly, this led to a number of epic wars, where one king would fight… er… tooth and nail to steal the holy molar.
when Buddha died, his body was cremated in a sandalwood pyre and his left canine tooth was retrieved from the ashes by one of his disciples.
Currently enshrined inside the aptly named Temple of the Tooth, in the city of Kandy, Sri Lanka, legend has it that some other monks were the first custodians of the relic, when the sacred peg was originally brought to the island. In fact, historical records say that it’s had to be moved a number of times, whenever the country was threatened with foreign invasion, and a completely new palace was built on each occasion to protect it.
While it’s only a tiny piece of the living Buddha, and an unusual one, this hasn’t stopped a growing series of offerings, rituals, and ceremonies from being performed at the temple throughout the year.
Devotees and tourists alike are welcome inside the golden-roofed building, however you better pack a good dose of faith, or at least have a good imagination, because – just like the tooth fairy – no one actually gets to see the tooth, because it’s hidden inside a golden casket. Regardless, the temple complex is impressive and totally worth visiting.
Keen to soak up the natural beauty and spiritual energy of Sri Lanka for yourself? You can do it for cheap on this 18-day TripADeal tour.